How Stephen McNeil will turn into Darrell Dexter…


Do you remember back in the dying days of the Rodney MacDonald regime when then-NDP finance critic Graham Steele threatened the then-deputy finance minister with contempt of a legislative committee for refusing to be forthcoming about the province’s finances? Remember when the deputy finance minister shot back that Steele’s criticism was all “political foolishness?”

Do you remember how quickly all was forgiven and forgotten just three months later when the NDP formed the government, Steele became finance minister, the deputy minister remained deputy minister and the new government casually assumed the former government’s penchant for secrecy?

Flash forward to the fall of 2013. Presume we’ve had our provincial election. Presume the polls hold. Presume now-Opposition leader Stephen McNeil is premier.

1329233163Stephen McNeil

You remember Stephen McNeil?

Last week, McNeil was in high holy dudgeon after Irving shipbuilding CEO Jim Irving centred McNeil in his cross-hairs. Irving had taken offence at what he considered McNeil’s “cheap political shots” at Darrell Dexter’s NDP for having had the “guts” to loan his shipyard $304 million to cement the $35-billion federal shipbuilding contract.

The Dexter government’s loan, McNeil returned fire, may have “bought him the support of a billionaire CEO,” but the people’s tribune—which is to say McNeil—would continue to “demand accountability when our precious tax dollars are put on the line.”

Should McNeil do the thinkable and win the next election, expect he and Jim Irving to make similar kissy face, and for the Liberals—like the NDP—to cosy up to the usual assortment of billionaires and Michelin Tire executives.

Not to mention finding unexpected virtue in the too-far-gone-to-stop Maritime link to bring Newfoundland power to Nova Scotia. The Liberals, McNeil will parse, never actually said they opposed the deal, just the Dexter government’s failure to consider alternatives…

And so it will go.

This seeming hypocrisy is partly an inevitable result of our political system. Opposition parties oppose. Governments make deals. Partly, too, the reality that the real range of options for any government of any stripe is severely limited. And partly, of course, because we seem to prefer to elect politicians who lie to us to get elected just so we can complain later that they lied to us.

Such, it seems, is politics.

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